This question is the reason that a Second World War II Sherman tank now sits on the automobile shop floor at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute.
The vehicle has created quite a stir, not only in the class but throughout the school, the city, and Canada. People from as far away as the United States and even Europe have taken note. History buffs, military antique clubs and people who just want to help have heard the story about the tank coming to the school and have offered support, old repair manuals, and even cheques.
During a class field trip to the museum at Canadian Forces Base Borden, automobile shop teacher Sean Carney brought up the idea of borrowing a tank from the museum and letting his students restore a piece of Canadian history to its original condition. Stuart Beaton, the director of the museum, thought that it was an outstanding idea. He informed Mr. Carney that he would look into the feasibility of the project and get back to him.
First, Mr. Beaton had the school draft a letter stating their intentions and then he presented the idea to the base commander of CFB Borden. After the legal ramifications for both the military and the school had been worked out, the project was given the go ahead.
To start the Sherman on its trip, soldiers from the Canadian Forces School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering used their Leopard Armoured Recovery Vehicle and loaded the tank onto the donated float truck. The trailer was donated for the trip by a civilian company.
Once at the school, the tank was unloaded. Then, the really hard part of the trip began. Rather than being pushed straight into a vehicle bay on the shop floor, it had to be pushed, pulled, and dragged into a bay between the doors. The tank will be staying in the bay for two to five years and the school did not want to lose a valuable bay with a door for such a long time.
With the tank now in their class, the students are, in their words, "stoked" about having it and being able to start work. One student, Laura Lefrefne, was asked what it was like to have a piece of Canada's history in the class, and what it meant to her to be able to work on it. "It makes me want to come to this class," she said.
"It's going to be a long, hard project, but hopeful lly by the end of it, it'll all be worth while," stated Daniel Tadman, a grade 12 student.
PIC3RThe ultimate goal is to have the tank fully restored and running. This is going to be no small feat, as the interior of the tank has not aged well and there is no engine. The CFB Borden museum has generously offered to open some of the other Shermans at the base to see what can be scavenged and given to the students for the restoration. They already have some leads on engines, but if you happen to have a Sherman engine in your backyard and its not doing anything, it would save a lot of work for the students if you could drop it off at their school!
Mr. Carney, the shop teacher, says this is a dream project come true. It will give students an excellent opportunity to learn about Canada's past; it will definitely help the students learn valuable research skills; and the mechanics of the tank will most certainly help the students in learning about basic mechanical systems.
"It makes me feel honoured to be doing this project," concluded the teacher.
Article and photos by Sergeant Brad Phillips